Sketch maps, photographs and GIS maps

There are other types of map that provide a representation of the landscape.

Sketch maps

Sketch maps are simple drawings of the landscape. They show things that are sometimes hidden in photographs or maps, eg the impact of tourists on a landscape.

Sketch maps may be shown as a bird's-eye view or as a drawing of the horizon. They can be drawn whilst on fieldwork or from a photograph. It is useful to annotate sketch maps or include a photograph alongside it.

A sketch map shows a top-down view of a river valley, featuring mountains, river, river walkway, cropfields, a farm house, farm road, marsh, lake and planted forest.


Photographs can be taken from different locations:

  • Ground photographs – these can be taken during fieldwork, using a camera or mobile device. They need to be annotated to show any features.
  • Aerial photographs – these are usually taken from an aeroplane. They cover a wider area than ground photographs so they are useful in showing spatial patterns.
  • Satellite images – these are high-resolution photographs taken from satellites in space. They show a very wide area, but in less detail than close-up images.
Satellite image showing the landscape before an earthquake
Satellite image showing the landscape before an earthquake
The landscape after an earthquake
The landscape after an earthquake

GIS maps

Geographical information systems (GIS) maps are digital maps that have layers of data added to them. GIS maps can be changed to show specific information about a place. Information layers can be shown as:

  • area shading - sections of the map are shaded to show patterns
  • graphs - bar charts, pie charts and proportional symbols are overlain
  • photographs - photographs can be added to points on the map
  • flow lines - lines to show movements between places

Annotating maps and photographs

Annotations are detailed labels with an explanation of what is shown. They are important because they allow us to interpret and compare maps and photographs. Annotations can focus on physical and human features and they usually include key terms.